Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Banning Smoking in the Military ?!

A proposal is being considered that would ban smoking by anyone serving in the US military. It would also ban the sale of cigarettes on military bases. CNN reports as follows.

"A new study commissioned by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs recommends a complete ban on tobacco, which would end tobacco sales on military bases and prohibit smoking by anyone in uniform, not even combat troops in the thick of battle.

According to the study, tobacco use impairs military readiness in the short term. Over the long term, it can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. The study also says smokeless tobacco use can lead to oral and pancreatic cancer.

The Defense Department's top health officials are studying the report's suggestions and will make recommendations to the Pentagon's policy team and Defense Secretary Robert Gates."

Predictably, the ban is not sitting well with US troops.Many who were interviewed cited the high stress levels in the US military. Even those stationed in non combat situations know that they are the most likely to be sent in harm's way. Then there is the stress of those sent on assignments that separate them from loved ones. The studies cited in the study commissioned by the Pentagon do not break any new ground. They point to all the risks of smoking with which most people are familiar. I am sure that an impressive list of academics are lending their prestige to this latest nanny state proposal to ban smoking in the military. This only proves the old saying, "To err is human. To really louse things up, you need a PhD."

I can see banning smoking by minors. I can grudgingly concede the appropriateness of banning smoking in hospitals. But to tell a person who is willing to take a bullet in defense of my freedom that he can not light up a cigarette or cigar is an obscene insult. If I were to satirise the overreaching arrogance of the nanny state mentality, I could not come up with a more outrageous example than the proposed smoking ban in the military.

I am convinced that smoking is as bad as the experts say it is. But it should be my choice to take the step of kicking the habit. In New York City, we have a transfat ban in restaurants. Which new health fad is going to get a law passed to enforce it?

There are laws in some states and countries defending the "right to die". Oregon permits assisted suicide. Other states are thinking of following suit. Their attitude is, My body, my business." There is an intellectual fad of supporting the "right to die". There is another intellectual fad of prohibiting the slow motion suicide of cigarette smoking. Why does no one step back and consider the absurd contradiction of adjusting political wisdom to prevailing fashion?

Orianna Fallaci, the late, great Italian journalist who took up arms against fascism in Italy as a teenager had the following to say about smoking, and her exposure to the smoke of burning oil wells in the aftermath of the first Gulf War.

"I was very unwell in the days that followed, and while I was feeling so unwell I had to interview a high official of the Petroleum Ministry to whom I told the whole story. 'Do you smoke?' he asked me. 'I certainly do,' I answered. 'Well, inside the Black Cloud you breathed the equivalent of ten million cigarettes. From now on you can smoke whatever you want.' A year and a half later, exactly when the 450 marines who had breathed the Black Cloud were being held in various American hospitals, especially the one in Bethesda, I got cancer too. I have to admit that before the operation I made a vow: I promised myself that I would never smoke again. But when I awoke from the anesthetic two of the surgeons who'd operated on me were at the foot of the bed, smoking. 'What!!' I said, dumbfounded. "Ms. Fallaci,' they answered, 'cancer is genetic. Cigarettes have nothing to do with it.' In that case, give me one right now,' I said. I started smoking again right there in bed in the clinic. And I haven't stopped since that day."

I think Ms. Fallaci's views were odd. I would not subscribe to them myself. But she braved gunfire as an Italian Partisan. And she took bullets as a journalist in Mexico City that almost ended her life. I would never want to be the one to tell her she could not smoke.

To treat American soldiers like children is an obscenity. Like any American citizen, they should be offered assistance in quitting smoking or any other habit that might be bad for their health. We tried prohibition with alcohol from 1919 to 1933. It was a miserable failure that enriched organised crime and made law breakers out of decent people. We seem hell bent on making the same mistakes with other substances.

If there is one thing that raises my blood pressure and causes me agitation, it is the health fascists who want to force their clean living on me. I think that they should be banned from public buildings and forced to congregate on sidewalks. Like Typhoid Mary, they enjoy robust good health while they annoy the hell out of everyone else. And now they want to boss around soldiers? Put them on the front lines with some granola and some Chamomile tea to calm them down if they get shot at. But leave our soldiers alone. Sphere: Related Content

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